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10/23/11 - Interview Tip: You Gotta Ask!

By Harry Urschel


So many job seekers leave an interview and have no idea if it went well, if they are still in the process, if they were considered a fit for the position, how long it will take the employer to make a decision, whether there are more interviews in the process, or if they will get a call back.The following days, or weeks can be extremely frustrating as they wait to find out.


Yet, most are unwilling to do the one thing that can alleviate that frustration right from the start... ASK!


Asking direct questions about your suitability for the job, their interest, and their process serves several purposes...


  • It shows the employer you have a sincere interest in the position and in moving forward
  • It shows professional assertiveness and thoroughness by seeking a full understanding of the status
  • It sets you apart from the majority of candidates who don't askIt often causes the employer to make somewhat of a commitment
  • It gives you insights to help you evaluate how well things went, or not
  • It helps you set your own expectations about where you stand and what may, or may not, happen next


Let's discuss those last two points in greater detail...


As a recruiter, when I send one of my candidates to an interview with one of my client companies, I have the opportunity to debrief with each of them afterward. I often say that sometimes the stories match up, and sometimes I wonder if they actually met the right person! At times, a candidates perception of how things went is wildly different than the employers perception. Clearly, feedback didn't happen in the interview.


As a candidate, it's much better to know if there is continued interest... or not, before you leave so that you're not left wondering indefinitely. If the answers you get are discouraging, at least you know right away rather than fretting for days or weeks and then finding out the bad news. If the feedback is good, then you know you can have reason for hope. Furthermore, if you ask whether they see you continuing in the process, and they say 'yes', then it's more difficult for them to backpedal on that minor commitment later.


So... what, and how should you ask? Here are some ideas...


As an interview nears the end, it's very appropriate, and good to say something like:


"I'm very interested in this position and believe I can be very productive for you in this role. If it's OK, I'd like to ask a few questions about what's next..."


"Can you give me an idea of the interview and decision making process? What would be the next step and what kind of timeframe do you have in mind?"


"How many other candidates do you have at this stage?"


"Based on our discussion today, do you see me moving forward to the next step in the process?"


"If I don't hear anything, when would be an appropriate time for me to follow up with you?"


Be sure to listen to the answers carefully! These kinds of questions, and others, can certainly give you a good idea of their level of interest and set reasonable expectations as to when things will continue to move forward.


Obviously, it's possible they won't give you answers to some or any of these questions. Nothing works every time. However, you can be pretty certain you won't get answers to those questions if you don't ask. Even if they don't give you answers though, you will have made it clear that you are interested, and willing to ask the questions that most candidates are not willing to ask.


If you want to know where things stand, to make a positive impression, and to know what to expect...


Ya' gotta ask!


Author: Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives.